Netanyahu: We won’t allow Iran to manufacture weapons in Lebanon

Netanyahu said Israel is working against the Iranian regime on three fronts.

PM Netanyahu says campaign against Iran ongoing on three different fronts at security cabinet meeting, May 27, 2018 (GPO)
Less than a week after the Israel Air Force released pictures of an IAF F-35 Stealth bomber over the skies of Beirut, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that Israel would not tolerate Iran’s manufacture of game-changing weapons in Lebanon.
“The regime in Tehran is the main factor undermining stability in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “The campaign against its aggression is not over, and we are still in the midst of it.”
Netanyahu said Israel is working against the Iranian regime on three fronts: preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons; working against its military entrenchment in Iran; and working against the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon, or the manufacturer of that weaponry in Lebanon.
“Those weapons are intended for use against Israel, and it is our right – by virtue of the right of self-defense – to prevent their manufacture or transfer,” he said.
Five days ago, Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin revealed – in what was widely perceived as a message to Hezbollah, Lebanon and Iran – that Israel has already used the recently acquired F-35 on two occasions to strike targets in the region.
Sunday’s cabinet meeting was not the first time Netanyahu has warned that Israel would take action in Lebanon to prevent the manufacture of precision-guided weapons, however, it was the first time since the elections in Lebanon earlier this month when Hezbollah bolstered its position.
An improvised explosive device inside a bolt cutter neutralized near the Gaza border fence, May 27th, 2018. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson"s Unit)
In late January – before setting off for a one-day trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin – Netanyahu said Israel is “not willing to tolerate” Lebanon being turned into a site for the manufacture of precision missiles to be used against it.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis warned in a rare op-ed on a Lebanese opposition website that a war with Israel could break out if Iran develops precision missiles in the country.
“Lebanon has become – both by its own actions and omissions and by a blind eye from many members of the international community – one large missile factory,” Manelis wrote on the Ahewar website. “It’s no longer a transfer of arms, funds or consultation. Iran has de facto opened a new branch, the ‘Lebanon branch.’ Iran is here.”
Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday that he spoke over the weekend with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and expressed Israel’s appreciation for the strong and determined position the US administration is taking against the Iranian nuclear agreement and the Islamic Republic’s aggression in the region.
In a related development, Channel 10 quoted a Saudi-owned website Sunday as saying that Israel and Iran engaged over the weekend in indirect negotiations in Jordan regarding fighting in southwestern Syria.
According to the Elaph website, the Iranians pledged not to participate in expected battles in southwestern Syria between President Bashar Assad’s forces and rebel groups, and Israel has made it clear that it will not intervene in the battles in the tri-border border area, as long as Hezbollah and the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias are not involved.
The unconfirmed report said the negotiations were conducted between Iran’s ambassador to Jordan, who was in one hotel room in Amman with Iranian security personnel, while in the next room there were senior Israeli security officials, including the deputy head of the Mossad. The report said a Jordanian mediator carried messages between the sides.